Friday, September 10, 2010

“Playoffs? Playoffs!!?

As the NASCAR schedule continues with tomorrow night’s race in the smoking mecca of Richmond, it also signals the last race of the “regular season”. This is the last of the 26 races drivers can qualify for NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, “The Chase for the Cup”.

As you may recall NASCAR implemented “The Chase” back in ’04 to help drive excitement, intrigue and exposure during the end of professional sport’s longest season winds down during football season. It started with only 10 drivers qualifying for the postseason, but has since been expanded to 12 to increase the chances of popular drivers (i.e. Dale Jr.) making the field.

Personally I think 10 is the perfect number pun intended. Most lists are the “Top 10”, not 12 or 15. In college the number 10 works as The Big 10 conference has 11 teams, 12 next year, but they have kept the same moniker. X is cooler than XII, ten is easier to spell than twelve, most people have 10 toes and fingers, and, well you catch my drift.

While 12 seems a little high from a participation standpoint, it’s actually low when comparing playoffs against stick and ball sports.

With 43 drivers in the field for each race and let’s assume they are the same 43 for every race. For all intents and purposes, six to seven of the bottom 43 drivers are interchangeable. Can you tell the difference between J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell? Using this math (12 out of 43), only 28% of drivers make the playoffs.

Consider the following sports:
NBA: 16 out of 30 teams: 53.3%
NHL: 16 out of 30 teams: 53.3%
NFL: 12 out of 32 teams: 37.5%
MLB: 8 out of 30 teams: 26.7%

Out of the so called four major sports, three (75%) have a higher qualifying percentage than NASCAR. NASCAR has floated the idea of expanding the field in future years and I for one hope it remains at 12 or decreases to the magic number of 10. I’m afraid if they expand the number, although making it closer to other sport’s participation %, it will dilute “The Chase” and will have Jim Mora proclaiming once again “Playoffs? Playoffs!!?

Kevin O’Neil

No comments: